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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

White House Rejects GOP Plan; Countdown to Fiscal Crisis; Iran Claims U.S. Drone "Captured"; Royal Baby on the Way; New Zimmerman Photo

Aired December 4, 2012 - 06:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: In 28 days, your paycheck will get smaller as your taxes go up. Coming up, a new proposal from Republicans to keep from plunging over the fiscal cliff.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And Iran says they have captured an unmanned American drone. They're showing it to you there. U.S. officials, though, have a different story. That's coming up.

SAMBOLIN: Plus, two Virginia Tech students arrested and charged for their part in an explosion right near campus.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Glad to have you with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. I'm in today for John Berman. It's Tuesday, December 4th and 31 minutes past the hour.

SAMBOLIN: All right, it's beginning to look like millions of Americans are about to get dragged right over that fiscal cliff, because with 28 days remaining before devastating tax hikes, and spending cuts kick in, Democrats and Republicans are now reduced to ridiculing each other. And the result could be a painful recession.

The GOP offering up its first plan yesterday. So, it calls for $2.2 trillion in deficit savings, this is over the next decade, including $800 billion from tax reforms, $600 billion from Medicare reforms, and $600 billion in spending cuts.

But the White House quickly said, no way, because the deal doesn't contain tax hikes for the wealthiest Americans.

Brianna Keilar live from Washington this morning. And, Brianna, are we beyond political posturing to the point where we have reached a stalemate?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There is a lot of posturing going on and there is an impasse, obviously, because at this point, you have the White House saying they're not going to discuss specifics on entitlement reform with House Republicans until they capitulate on increasing those income tax rates for wealthy Americans. So there is an impasse but there's a lot of posturing. The offer of the White House, details of which came out last week, and now this counteroffer from House Republicans out yesterday. So I think the policy prescriptions here are pretty clear on what has to be done, although both sides are very far apart. If you just listen to what's going on, certainly it seems like it's a whole lot of the blame game.

Here's some.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Making vague promises about achieving revenue through capping deductions or closing loopholes simply doesn't add up to a serious proposal.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: I'm certain that if this is not good enough for the White House, we will go over the fiscal cliff.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So --

COBURN: Because this is a compromise on taxes.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KEILAR: Don't be surprised, Zoraida, if this logjam continues, at least into next week. That's what it seems like now.

SAMBOLIN: I don't think anybody would be surprised there, Brianna.

So this new GOP plan seems to, for the most part, draw on proposals made by Erskine Bowles, the Democrat who co-chaired the Deficit Reduction Committee last year. There are some differences, though, for example, Bowles would not have raised the eligibility age for Social Security.

What does he think of this specific plan?

KEILAR: Well, he specifically says there's a big thing missing and it's what the White House and Democrats will say is missing of Speaker Boehner's plan from their perspective and that is increasing those tax rates on wealthy Americans.

Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERSKINE BOWLES (D), CO-CHMN., NATL. COMM. ON FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY & REFORM: I am positive that to get a deal done you're going to have to have higher tax rates on the top 2 percent. I'm equally sure that $350 billion were from cuts that the president put on the table for health care entitlements is not going to be sufficient to get a deal done. There's going to have to be some compromise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Now, Zoraida, as you know, the White House has said there's nothing new about the speaker's counteroffer. They say it's lacking specifics. But I will tell you, it does bear some resemblance to that grand bargain that was being worked out between the speaker and the president last year, the failed grand bargain.

And there was one Democratic leadership aid who said to CNN it does pass the laugh test. So, I think perhaps, some of them were surprised. They thought it would be maybe more towards what Republicans would want and actually it wasn't.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Brianna Keilar, live in Washington -- thank you.

ROMANS: All right, back to developing news this morning. Iran claiming it captured a U.S. drone. State TV in Tehran showing two revolutionary guard commanders examining what appears to be a ScanEagle drone. But the U.S. defense official tells our Barbara Star all unmanned air vehicles operating in the region are accounted for.

Barbara Starr is with us. She's been following these developments.

We know an official told you that if the Iranians do have something, it's not an actively operating U.S. Navy drone. What -- what could it be or is this, you know, is this stagecraft from the Iranians? We don't know.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, we'll see what really happens in the coming hours. The Navy says at the moment all of their drones and Marine Corps drones are accounted for. A number of other companies operate this same drone in that region. It could be from one of them. It could be something that went down months ago.

What is this drone? It's essentially a small radio controlled plane, very small. You can see it there. Low tech, low cost, designed to conduct surveillance over the Persian Gulf. The Navy operates them in international airspace.

So if one goes down, they actually, in the view of the U.S. Navy, it's not really such a big deal.

ROMANS: All right. Let's talk about Syria here, because that is something, the president sounds like it is a very big deal at this moment for the White House. They say they have contingency plans in place for direct action against Syria if it uses chemical weapons.

Have they revealed any details about this?

STARR: They have absolutely not. This is -- this is the ultimate, very serious situation.

But we do know that the U.S. military certainly has been planning for months for all the what-if scenarios in Syria. And chemical and biological weapons is the worst at the moment.

So, yes, they have plans to be able to go in, secure the chemical/biological weapons sites. But if, if Assad were to suddenly strike against his own people, what military option could be used becomes very difficult. The sites are dispersed in civilian populations.

ROMANS: Right.

STARR: It's a very tough problem.

ROMANS: And the American appetite for something like that is very, very --

STARR: Very minimal. But don't count out. The Israelis are next door. They might not wait.

ROMANS: And diplomatic pressure on people who are still talking to Bashar al-Assad.

STARR: Absolutely. Working through the Russians to try to get them to go back to Assad again and say, do not do this.

ROMANS: All right. Barbara Starr -- thank you, Barbara.

SAMBOLIN: It is 37 minutes past the hour.

Let's take a look at the top CNN trends on the web this morning.

Hear ye, hear ye, a royal baby is on the way. I know you've heard about this. Announcement Britain has been waiting for since, you know, Prince William married Kate Middleton last year. Now, Buckingham Palace confirms that the Duchess of Cambridge is, indeed, pregnant. She's hospitalized as well this morning in London, being treated for severe symptoms of morning sickness.

ROMANS: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg reportedly wants Hillary Clinton to be his successor. Several newspapers reporting the mayor called the Secretary of State months ago and urged her to run in 2013 and that he's convinced she would win. Calling her a perfect fit.

Mrs. Clinton reportedly told Mayor Bloomberg that she's not interested.

SAMBOLIN: How about the presidency?

All right. A renewed appeal for the release of an American prisoner in Cuba. Sixty-three-year-old Alan Gross is beginning his fourth year of a 15-year sentence on the island. The U.S. State Department issued a new statement calling for his release. Gross says he was there in an effort to connect Cuba's small Jewish community to the Internet. The Cuban authorities said he was using imported sensitive communications equipment to connect dissidents.

ROMANS: Two Virginia Tech football players have been suspended from the team. They're charged with manufacturing and detonating an explosive device. Police say 20-year-old Joshua Trimble and 19-year- old Brian Rody were arrested Sunday after a small explosion near an apartment building. No one was hurt.

An attorney says players were just pulling a prank --

SAMBOLIN: A prank.

ROMANS: -- on some female friends.

SAMBOLIN: Monday night football. Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III getting a little lucky in the Washington Redskins 17-16 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

That's Griffin tumbling. The teammate Josh Morgan recovers the ball, runs it into the end zone, for a touchdown. The Redskins are now within one game of the Giants in the NFC East.

And another big storm is expected to climb into the West Coast today, I'm sorry. That is the third one in less than a week. We are tracking the storm for you this morning.

And listen to this -- every time you send a text message it could soon be recorded, stored for years to be used against you if you get into trouble with the law that is. The details, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Forty-two minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START.

Well, there is no relief in northern California. The storms just keep on coming, four of them in less than a week. Now one death attributed to all of this nasty weather. And sadly, more rain is expected today.

Meteorologist Rob Marciano is following it all from the CNN weather center in Atlanta. But you do say that there is a reprieve headed for those folks West, right?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You have a longer-term pattern once we get through today and tonight will be rather dry one, at least for northern California. Not so much for the Pacific Northwest where it's raining right now. Seattle and Portland, some snow at the higher elevations, as well. That rain is starting to push down into California.

We'll get two surges of this storm. One this morning across the North, and the second one will come this afternoon. More so across the South, and eventually will push down into the northern fringes of San Francisco. Could see another inch or two of rainfall up through the Sacramento area. That will cause some flooding because the ground, obviously, is so saturated.

And some of these spots we've seen over 20 inches of rainfall at Mount Shasta. Not talking snow, rainfall -- 23.48 inches. So it has been a dry year so some of that got absorbed but we saw a tremendous amount of flooding as well with infrastructure damage we've been showing the past couple of days.

Across the East Coast, we got a front that's pushing east, a cold front into some incredibly warm air. Records will fall again today. Yesterday, Chicago got up to near 70 and parts of northern Illinois into the 70s. A little cool today into the 60s from D.C. to New York City.

Enjoy it. We're going to start to see temperatures go from 10 to 20 to 30 degrees above average, a bit of a cool-down over the next few days. But, generally speaking, the longer-term trend for that, as well, Zoraida is one that keeps us rather mild here, going forward.

So, certainly, it doesn't feel like Christmas just yet.

SAMBOLIN: No, not yet. I'm sure it's headed our way. Thank you so much, Rob. Appreciate it.

MARCIANO: All right. You got it.

ROMANS: All right. Forty-four minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date.

Iran reported this morning it has captured a U.S. drone. You're looking at video from state TV in Iran. It shows two Iranian revolutionary guard commanders examining what appears to be an intact ScanEagle drone.

But U.S. defense officials tell our Barbara Starr, quote, "The U.S. Navy has fully accounted for all unmanned air vehicles operating in the Middle East region."

SAMBOLIN: And new evidence coming to light in the Trayvon Martin investigation. Look at this. A picture of suspect George Zimmerman released by his attorneys, reportedly taken by a police officer the night Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.

The bloody picture itself is not new. But the fact that it is a high resolution color photo is. It's part of the latest batch of evidence prosecutors turned over to Zimmerman's defense. Zimmerman faces a second-degree murder charge for killing Martin back in February.

ROMANS: A powerful typhoon has struck the Southern Philippines this morning, packing winds of 110 miles an hour. The storm has destroyed homes, triggered landslides. At least three people have been killed in the Philippines. Officials say millions of people could be affected.

SAMBOLIN: NASA's Curiosity space rover has discovered evidence of organic compounds on Mars. Samples of dust and sand from a dune on Mars appear to contain carbon, sulfur, and chlorine compounds. But scientists here's on Earth aren't sure what to make of those findings and whether they could be a sign of life on the Red Planet.

ROMANS: NHL labor talks set to resume today. A small group of owners and players will be there, but the league's commissioner and the head of the players union will not attend.

SAMBOLIN: That will be productive.

ROMANS: The NHL labor lockout is now in its 79th day and all games through December 14th have already been canceled.

SAMBOLIN: Forty-six minutes past the hour. Soledad O'Brien joins us now with a look at what is ahead on "STARTING POINT." Good morning.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, "STARTING POINT": A lot happening this morning. Good morning, everybody. The former British prime minister, Tony Blair, is our guest this morning. We're going to talk about Iran, going to talk about Syria, going to talk about the fiscal cliff impact on the world economy, and of course, the baby coming out of Buckingham Palace, eventually.

Also, Republicans are now out with a counteroffer on the fiscal cliff. The Democratic Congressman Javier Becerra is going to join us. He's from California, of course. Republican Senator Ron Johnson from the state of Wisconsin will discuss the fiscal cliff and the negotiations with us, as well.

Plus, the truth about all those myths that your parents told you. Should you run with scissors? No, of course not. Can you swim after you eat? No, of course not. Well, the all-time Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings has a new book out where he researchers all these myths and breaks it down.

ROMANS (on-camera): He's so funny.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Yes, yes. All that is ahead this morning at the top of the hour on "STARTING POINT." We'll see you there.

ROMANS: Oh, wow. OK. Thanks, Soledad.

Now, we're going to be talking coming up about Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, right, and her royal bun in the oven, and how we now have, what, eight more months of speculation about whether it's a boy or a girl, what they're going to name it. And we're going to talk to Elizabeth Cohen about when morning sickness is so terrible you go to the hospital.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. And I'm also curious about does that that extreme morning sickness, that it could be twins? Elizabeth Cohen is going to have all the answers for us coming up.

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SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's 50 minutes past the hour. As we have been reporting this morning, Britain is buzzing with news that Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, wife of Prince William, is pregnant with the couple's first child.

ROMANS: We've also learned that she's in a London hospital being treated for symptoms of severe morning sickness. So, how bad can morning sickness get? I mean, this doesn't sound like a case of having a few saltine crackers.

We're joined by senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, how often do the women end up in the hospital with morning sickness? ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it is relatively unusual. Most of us do just eat those saltines and we're fine. I remember doing that when I was pregnant. But when it gets really bad, doctors do put women in the hospital because they need to get them intravenous treatment.

Now, for some women, this just magically goes away at around the 12, 14-week mark. For other women, morning sickness, one, lasts all day, not just in the morning, and number two, it can last the entire pregnancy -- Christine.

SAMBOLIN: You know, we were talking to our reporter out there, and he was saying that in all of the headlines they're talking about, could it be a boy? Could it be a girl? Could it be multiples?

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: And there is a report online that when you have extreme morning sickness, it could, perhaps, that that could perhaps be a sign of a multiple pregnancy. Is there any medical proof of that?

COHEN: You know what? Anyone can get morning sickness. You can get morning sickness with one baby, with two babies. It is somewhat slightly more likely with multiples. And interestingly enough, it is slightly more likely with girls. There have been a bunch of big studies that show that when a woman is pregnant with a girl, the mom is battling her own hormones, which are at high levels, and the girl fetus has her own hormones. So, you put those on top of each other.

So, you know, I'm not predicting a princess. But I'm just saying, that there are studies that show the morning sickness is often worse with a girl.

ROMANS: You have pretty lots of mothers out there, going oh, no, I was sick as a dog.

COHEN: Exactly.

ROMANS: And that was a boy baby.

COHEN: Exactly.

ROMANS: So, how do they treat morning sickness? You said intravenous. I'm assuming they hydrate the patient and they're watching?

COHEN: Right. They hydrate the patient. They give her nutrition via IV. And there's also anti-nausea medications that they can give via IV. So, that's really the traditional treatment. There's not much more that can be done. I mean even with that treatment, some women still feel sick for months and months.

Again, others with that treatment, they're just fine, they walk out of the hospital and no problem.

SAMBOLIN: So, is this hereditary at all? If your mom had severe morning sickness like this, are you more likely to experience it as well? Because I was reading somewhere on line, this girl is 119 pounds, 5'10". So, you start wondering what are the reasons why she's experiencing the severe morning sickness?

COHEN: You know, there really are no reasons. No one can really say why one woman gets through a pregnancy scot free, doesn't feel sick at all, and another woman is, you know, sick as a dog every day throughout the entire pregnancy. You just don't know. You know, you can make things up. Oh, it's because she's so skinny. Oh, it's because her mother was sick. And, you know, the thing is we really don't know. The two things we really do know is the multiples and a girl.

ROMANS: The number one cause of morning sickness is pregnancy.

COHEN: Yes, that is so true.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Now, they say she'll only be in there for, you know, a couple of days. Is that typically it and then they release you, you go home, and they watch you?

COHEN: Right. Again, for some women, that's all you need. A couple of days and you're fine. There are other women, I'm not saying her in particular, but there are women who expect to go in for a couple days. They get treated and it doesn't go away. There are women who are in the hospital with morning sickness throughout most of their pregnancies.

SAMBOLIN: Wow!

ROMANS: Can you imagine being pregnant and having the whole world watching you like that?

SAMBOLIN: No, no, I can't.

ROMANS: She's not even 12 weeks yet. It's going to be a long, long nine months.

SAMBOLIN: Let's hope it's uneventful from here. Thanks, Elizabeth. Appreciate having your insight this morning.

ROMANS: All right. It seems like everybody is communicating by text messages these days. Now, law enforcement groups are asking Congress to enact legislation that would require wireless companies to record and store customers' text messages for two years. Officials say these messages are now frequently used as evidence in criminal trials, and they say that criminal investigations can be adversely impacted without such a law.

SAMBOLIN: So, you know California is having all sorts of problems with these torrential rains. Let's check in with Rob Marciano in the weather center in Atlanta to see what's going on. Is there any relief on the way for those folks? MARCIANO: Yes, this storm is rolling through, this last one that we'll see, I think, for awhile here, and with this will come additional rainfall with some saturated soil, looking at flash flood watches that have posted for Portland back through Medford. And this is mostly in the form of rain, and obviously, some wind as well. Wind gusts over 60 miles an hour, especially across the Coast Range and the Sierras, Siskiyous and the Cascades.

Other important note of interest here, cool front. Just a cool front. Not really cold front heading across the east coast, and that's going to cool things down after some seriously record-breaking temperatures, including Northern Illinois yesterday. Temperatures into the lower 70s. Chicago a little bit of rain to your east. St. Louis, as well.

And a little pulse of rain trying to get in New York City. It'll sprinkle and shower a little bit here. But overall temperatures will be well above average by a good 20 degrees in some spots. Right now, 52 degrees in Chicago, 48 in New York, 53 in D.C. if we have time, I don't know. You can pop up the D.C. camera.

Pretty mild. If not, just toss it back to you guys. Having some technical difficulties with my earpiece, but there is the capitol. Can't we all just get along?

(LAUGHTER)

MARCIANO: Christine Romans, get on them. Little when you get on your --

ROMANS: I know. I know. Come on, just fix it.

SAMBOLIN: We are going to get along.

ROMANS: All right. Rob Marciano, thanks, Rob.

SAMBOLIN: We're going to take a quick break and we'll be right back.

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